We all go through times when life gets a bit too complicated, and we feel overwhelmed. We need to vent, to talk to someone who can make us feel understood and can help us understand ourselves better. We might even imagine ourselves lying on a sofa, while a person who looks remarkably similar to Sigmund Freud asks us insightful questions.
This is what most of us picture when we think about going to psychotherapy or counselling. But with advances in technology, we now how more options than the traditional face-to-face therapy we know from movies, acquaintances or possibly even experience. Online psychotherapy and counselling have become very popular in recent years, and as a result, accessing mental health services has never been easier.
The difference between counselling and psychotherapy
The terms psychotherapy and counselling are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.
Psychotherapy is typically long-term and is based on the principle that a person’s thoughts and behavioural patterns influence the way they see and interact with the world. Throughout the sessions, you and your psychotherapist will explore where those thoughts and behaviours stem from and how you could change them to improve the quality of your life and reach your personal goals.
Counselling is usually more short-term than psychotherapy and focuses on addressing a specific issue, for example, dealing with stress at work. During counselling sessions, you will learn techniques on how to cope with stress better and which thought patterns or behaviours are helpful and which are not.
What is online counselling and what to expect
There’s actually not much difference between online counselling and traditional face-to-face counselling. Studies show they’re just as effective, the counsellors are required to have the same level of training, sessions follow the same structure and have the same duration.
The main difference, as the name suggests, is that online counselling is provided to clients through the internet, using video calls, audio calls and text chat. As the client, you can choose the medium that suits you best. Most people combine all three options so they can maintain more frequent contact with their counsellors.
When you visit a platform that offers online psychotherapy and counselling services, you’ll be presented with a database of mental health professional you can choose from. You can browse through the bios, and you’ll see their pictures and be able to read their credentials and find out what they specialise in. Many platforms also offer you a quiz so they can narrow down the list and suggest the most suitable options for your needs.
After you choose a counsellor, you’ll set up an initial session so you can discuss your goals and your expectations. Similarly to face-to-face therapy, this session will give you a chance to get to know each other and see if you feel comfortable talking to them.
Keep in mind that it’s not at all unusual to feel a nervous or awkward during the first session. Since it’s the first time you ever talk to your counsellor, it’s naturally difficult to discuss personal subjects. You can share your concerns openly, so they help you feel more comfortable.
It’s also important to note that both in counselling and psychotherapy, the mental health professional does not choose your goals for you. So they won’t tell you what you should do or change. This is something you decide, and they will ask you questions like “Can you tell me about the reasons why you want to try counselling?” so they know what you want to work on and your desired outcome.